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Play along at home: The Baseball Name Chain game!

I’ve always been a word nerd, and today I’m going to indulge my inner geek. Instead of serving up my usual big slabs of numbers and analysis, we’re going to play a silly game, and you can join the fun at home. In fact, I hope you’ll contribute in the comments section!

I call this little brain teaser the Baseball Name Chain. The object is to create the longest chain of baseball names by connecting the surname of one player to the playing name of the next. For example: Steve Carlton Fisk. There’s only a few rules or guidelines here:

  • The people have to have played, managed, owned, or GM’ed in MLB (and the Negro Leagues count as MLB)
  • Has to be the baseball name:
    Sorry, Dion James Bell doesn’t work if you’re referring to Cool Papa Bell
  • Homonyms are not cool:
    Darren Daulton Jones doesn’t work because Dalton Jones spelled his name differently
  • Homographs are usually cool if it’s clear they are the same thing with very slight differences in pronunciation
    Felix (Fee-lix) and Felix (Fay-lix) are the same name
  • Accent marks don’t mean it’s spelled differently
  • Jr. and Junior are the same thing
  • Try not to use obscure players with one PA just to make it work—that’s no fun—though sometimes it’s unavoidable.

Once you do this a few times, you’ll suddenly realize you can’t stop. You’ll be watching a ballgame, and suddenly: Hank Aaron Ledesma! And then you’ll start playing around with Hank Aaron, looking for a link to a longer chain…Aaron Fultz, Aaron Holbert, Aaron Sanchez, Aaron Hill, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Nolan, Aaron Nola, Aaron Hicks, oh wait, wasn’t there a catcher back in the day Aaron…ROBINSON! Hank Aaron Robinson Checo!!! Yes!!!

And then your cats will look at you funny. Especially when you then blurt out: “Ooh, ooh! Hank Aaron Robinson Cano!!!

It’s pretty addictive. And, yes, it’s OK to consult BBREF here and there.

What got me on this kick was seeing Choo-Choo Coleman’s name on BBREF’s death notices. I suddenly lit on Shin-Soo Choo-Choo Coleman, which, despite only being a chain of two, is really quite awesome aesthetically thanks to the multiple word first names in each link. So off I went. Here came Tommy Gregg Olson, Dick Allen Craig Biggio, and Branch Rickey Henderson Alvarez!

Next Jeff Kent Anderson Machado, and the more obscure Gary Wayne Garland Braxton. Things started to lengthen out. I got a couple fours: Gene Michael Jackson Todd Frohwirth, Ken Griffey Junior Felix Jose Gonzalez, and Chris George Brett Wallace Johnson. Then a five rattled its way through my brain! The Only Nolan Ryan Howard Clark Griffith is awesome in so many ways.

Now the hunt for a sixer. I started with the list of Hall of Famers and looked those who had first names that often doubled as surnames…and vise versa…and trying some combos, hooking into ones I’d already gotten:

  • Ethan Allen Craig Biggio
  • Doug Harvey Kuenn
  • Joe Gordon Maltzberger
  • Frank Grant Jackson
  • Tommy John Jay Bruce Sutter
  • Ben Taylor Buchholz
  • Terrell Wade Boggs
  • Gary Carter Capps
  • Wayne Kirby Puckett
  • Sparky Anderson Hernandez

And then it hit me!

Chris George Brett Cecil Travis Jackson Todd Frohwirth

Not just a six, but a seven!!!

Todd is a dead end. But is there a name that could extend this Name Chain in the other direction? I asked BBREF to show me all the Georges…And each, like Chris, was a dead end. What about the middle men? Actually, they appear to be dead ends too. Though I did discover that I could get another seven by combining my big one above with elements of this first seven:

The Only Nolan Ryan Brett Cecil Travis Jackson Todd Frohwirth

And if we resort to two cuppa coffee guys, we can make this bizarre chain, which technically makes eight, but all the short timers kinda feels icky.

The Only Nolan Ryan Howard Earl Howard Clark Griffith

Anyway, there’s probably a jillion pathways by which to make bigger Name Chains. Please put your best and most interesting in the comments below, and if you can make an eight that’s better than one with two or three no-names (so to speak), then get ready to take a bow! If I come across any other good ones, I’ll also pop ‘em in the comments.

Trust me, this will hook you, but don’t blame me: I told you so!

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